This Easter I would like to bring together ideas in the Vigil Epistle & Gospel and the ‘Mass During the Day’ readings. In Romans 6:3-11, the immersion that occurs in adult baptism is understood to be symbolic of one’s going down into the grave as a sign of death to sin to rise out of the water as a sign of rising out of the grave to a new life in Christ. In baptism we are joined to Christ’s death and resurrection so that “we too might live in the newness of life,” that was given to Christ and also to us by the glorious power of God the Father. “If, then, we have died with Christ,” that is to say that “our old self” that was enslaved to sin “was crucified with him,” “we believe that we shall also live with him,” as his holy people in heaven. We no longer belong to a body that death will conquer and put into a grave or tomb forever. The tomb with the stone covering the entrance or mouth of the tomb represents the jaws of this earth that has swallowed up our lives; whereas the tomb with the stone removed or rounded back represents the fact that the physical forces of this earth are not able to block or restrain the almighty force of the eternally living God. “As to his death, he died to sin once and for all (people); as to his life, he lives for God. Consequently, you too must think of yourselves as being dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus.”
In Colossians 3:1-4, Paul writes, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.” To be a people who seek holiness our whole way of thinking must change. Our whole perspective must change. We ought to live in this world as if we are already people in heaven, “hidden with Christ in God.” This world is no longer our life; Christ is our life. We belong to something entirely different from this world. “When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory.”
In 1 Corinthians 5:6b-8, Paul writes, “Celebrate the feast, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” We are the fresh batch of dough, unleavened, without the corruption or yeast of this world, made new in the newly risen Christ, recreated sinless and holy through his work of salvation in his sacrifice on the cross.
These Easter accounts do not agree or blend well together, not even within the same Gospel writer. These remembrances were written much later after the fact, when the writers were much older. However, the basic ideas agree. He had arisen; he was no longer dead in the tomb. Mary Magdalene, especially, had a great love and respect for Jesus, desiring to care for him even in death. Through the gospels we have physical proof and heavenly proclamation that Jesus had arisen. Jesus had often told his Apostles that he would die and three days later arise. They did not get it. Even after Peter and John were witnesses to the empty tomb, still “they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.” Jesus understands our human condition and never stops working with us on our way to heaven.